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Los Angeles Immigration Law Blog

Federal judge enjoins Trump's 'Remain in Mexico' policy

One of President Trump's most notable comments on immigration is his statement that the "United States is full." The underlying purpose of the President's comment was his intent to stop immigrants from entering and remaining in the United States while they await action on their applications for political asylum. Now a federal judge in San Francisco has ruled that the president's intent violates both the Constitution and the statute that governs asylum procedures.

Federal Richard Seeborg ruled that the "Remain in Mexico" policy violates the asylum statute and fails to comply with United States policy of not returning immigrants to their home countries while they await a decision on their application for asylum. Judge Seeborg ruled that the president's policy violates federal law because it threatens immigrants seeking asylum with removal to their home countries where their life or freedom would be threatened.

Getting an immigrant visa for a spouse

Many Americans living abroad have married foreign citizens, and they are now wondering how their new wife or husband can legally move to the United States. The first step is to obtain a solid understanding of the immigration procedures for obtaining a spouse visa. The procedures for obtaining a visa for a spouse can be somewhat complex, and this post will endeavor to cast a bit of light on this murky world.

A petition for a spouse visa must be filed by an American citizen who resides in this country. The first form to be filed is Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, and it must be filed with the Department of Homeland Security, Citizenship and Immigration Services. In some cases, the petition can be filed by a spouse who is an American citizen who lives outside of the United States. The sponsor of the petition, usually the spouse, must reside in the United States. The affidavit supporting the visa application must be signed by a person who is at least 18 years old. A person who is a U.S. citizen when the application for the spouse visa is filed must file a separate application for each child who wishes to immigrate.

Appeals court rules that immigrants may appeal denial of asylum

One of the most important issues in immigration law has been resolved, at least temporarily, by a recent decision of the U. S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The issue is whether immigrants seeking asylum in the United States have the right to appeal the denial of their requests in federal courts. The court's decision turned on the constitutionality of a 1996 federal law that was intended to prevent such appeals.

The case arose when a native of Sri Lanka, who belonged to the ethnic minority Tamil, was arrested in Los Angeles shortly after arriving in this country. The man fled from Sri Lanka to Mexico and then entered the United States from Mexico. When he attempted to enter the United States, he was arrested by a border patrol officer 25 yards north of the border. The immigration officer who interviewed him after the arrest made a finding that the man lacked a credible fear of persecution in Sri Lanka, and his request for asylum was denied by an immigration judge. He has been detained in an immigration facility for two years.

Undocumented immigrants have workers’ compensation rights

Whether or not someone is an immigrant is unimportant when it comes to workplace safety. Everyone has the right to a safe job and to seek compensation if they are injured.

Unfortunately, some employers retaliate against employees who file a claim, which is especially concerning for undocumented workers. For example, an undocumented construction worker, Jose Martin Paz Flores, filed a workers’ compensation claim and was retaliated against by his employer. He was in the country without documentation at the time. He has since obtained work authorization and regularly checks in with ICE while pursuing legal status.

California AG audit shows poor conditions for immigrant detainees

More deficiencies in the Trump Administration's handling of immigrant detainees were revealed in a report by the Office of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. The audit of immigrant detention centers was begun about a year ago, and its findings provide a deeper look into the treatment of immigrants awaiting a determination of their deportation status.

According to the report, which was intended to obtain information about every day operations at the detention centers, 74,000 immigrant detainees from more than 150 countries have been imprisoned at the 10 public and private detention centers in California. All of the centers were inspected by the attorney general's office. The average length of confinement for an individual was more than 50 days. One person was reported to have been kept in a detention center for more than four years.

LA County sheriff announces plans to limit cooperation with ICE

One of the hottest topics in last fall's election of a new sheriff for Los Angeles County was the vow of winner Alex Villanueva to limit the department's cooperation with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Sheriff Villanueva is now about to announce plans to prevent LA County's jails from becoming a "pipeline for deportation."

One of the sheriff's first steps is to reduce the number of misdemeanors that could be used as the basis for removal and to shorten the length of time after conviction for using a misdemeanor conviction as the basis for removal. A second step is the possible discontinuation of publishing release dates online. ICE agents have been using this information to stake out inmates after they are released and take them into federal custody. Villanueva's most significant step so far is to prohibit ICE agents from entering the sheriff's department facilities. The ban took effect on Feb. 1. Previous sheriffs had allowed ICE officers easy access so that they could detain people they believed to be in the country illegally.

Trump shutdown allows thousands of immigrants to stay in US

President Trump unilaterally shut down the federal government for 35 days to demonstrate his displeasure with the refusal of Congressional Democrats to provide funding for the border wall that was the centerpiece of his election campaign. Now that the shutdown is over, impartial experts looking at court records made an ironic discovery: the President's fit of pique allowed more than 80,000 undocumented immigrants to remain in the country.

Removal hearings are frequently scheduled months or even years in advance. The current backlog of cases requiring a hearing is over 800,000. When the system becomes plugged by an event, such as the government shutdown, the canceled hearings cannot simply be rescheduled for a week or two after the shutdown ends. Many cases must be rescheduled for months, if not years, in the future. The immigrants whose cases were necessarily rescheduled have, in effect, been allowed to remain in the country without any documentation for months or years.

Understanding immigration removal

One of the most misused and misunderstood immigration terms is deportation. Most immigrants in the United States understand that the term refers to the compulsory removal from the United States of a person who has entered and remains in the country without legal status. When the immigration laws were revised in the 1980s, the term deportation was deleted from the law and was replaced by the word removal. Nevertheless, the two words retain the same meaning: the removal from the United States of a person who has no legal right to enter or remain in the country.

A person may be removed from the United States if they have not entered the country legally, are present in the United States in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act, violated nonimmigrant state or terminated a conditional or permanent residence. Other grounds for removal include conviction of certain criminal offenses or failure to register relating to entry into the United States.

Government shutdown brings immigration process to near-halt

President Trump's enthusiasm for a border wall has drawn much attention to Washington, D.C., but along the border itself, other issues also call for attention. The Border Patrol and other agencies that monitor immigration are struggling with outdated facilities that cannot handle the increase in families wishing to enter the U.S. The immigration court system is so clogged with applications that people are waiting years for decisions to resolve their cases.

The current congressional debate seems to concentrate on raw numbers and ignores the reality faced by immigrant families in Southern California and elsewhere. Seldom mentioned is the fact that the backlog in immigration court has more than doubled to 1.1 million cases awaiting decisions. More families and children traveling alone now elect to surrender to border patrol officials and seek asylum, instead of following the much older pattern of entering the country by any means possible.

Supreme Court blocks Trump's asylum ban

President Trump issued an executive order that prevented people from seeking political asylum in this country unless they entered through a port of entry. A district court refused to enforce this rule, which led the Trump administration to appeal the district court's ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The appellate court affirmed the district court, so the government brought the case before the Supreme Court and asked the Supreme Court to reverse the trial court. The Supreme Court, on a 5-4 vote, refused the request.

This case centered on the statute that defines the procedures by which immigrants can request political asylum. The statute allows an application for asylum to be filed by any alien who is physically present in the United States "whether or not [the applicant is] at a designated port of arrival." The president's order contradicted the plain language of the statute by requiring all asylum seekers to have entered through a lawful port of entry. Currently, many people who have entered the country at places other than ports of entry are seeking asylum. Presumably, their applications for asylum will now be processed in due course.

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